According to Customs Border Protection (CBP) there are now over 11,000 companies participating in The Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism or C-TPAT, a public-private partnership program implemented in November of 2001 following the September 11 terror attacks. Five potential benefits of the C-TPAT program, Reduction in Customs Inspections, Front of the Line Privileges (if a Customs Exam Happens), Faster Business Resumption (in the event of natural disaster or act of terrorism), Marketability, ISF Penalty Mitigation. Reduction in Customs Inspections-C-TPAT participants may experience fewer of these physical types of exams. But remember, it is a reduction in exams, not an exemption from exams. If your shipment gets selected for an exam, CBP will physically open boxes and look at your cargo; possibly double-check the accuracy of the packing list; and maybe even send a sample back to the Commodity Specialist to confirm proper classification. In general, the x-ray exam is more common and it is important to note that C-TPAT participants still go through x-ray exams, especially if they are shipping LCL cargo. Front of the Line Privileges-If tagged for an exam, C-TPAT participants have front of the line privileges over importers who are not enrolled in the program. This is a tremendous benefit for importers. Recently, one of my clients had an order tagged for an exam that carried an imminent cancellation date. The client asked me, Is there anything you can do to expedite the exam? Short of the hundreds of phone calls we made and a personal visit to the exam site, the only thing I could ask him was, Did you complete a C-TPAT application? He had asked me about C-TPAT but never completed enrolment. In this instance I know that other CTPAT participants cut in front of my client. Although I tried to expedite the exam at the11th hour, he missed his cancellation date and lost tens of thousands of dollars on the deal. If CBP is going to examine your cargo, it is always better to be the first one in line to be examined. Faster Business Resumption-In the case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, C-TPAT members receive business resumption priority. In my opinion any event, whether natural or man-made, that causes a serious disruption of port operations will result in costly delays for all importers. It is difficult to predict how much this benefit might actually mitigate the impact of such an event on C-TPAT members. Receiving priority in resuming your business is certainly better than the alternative. Marketability -One of the stated benefits of C-TPAT raises a companys reputation and secures business with other C-TPAT participants. In other words, participation in the program may reflect positively on your business when you seek to do business with others who are also enrolled in C-TPAT. This is certainly a potential positive, although perhaps difficult to actually quantify. In my experience potential marketability has not proved to be the deciding factor for my clients considering enrolment. ISF Penalty Mitigation-In reality, ISF penalty mitigation is only enforced for the most egregious repetitive violators. Therefore, its no surprise those are typically the last importers to consider enrolling in the first place. The benefit of C-TPAT participation however means that ISF penalties imposed by CB Pare mitigated by 50 percent.
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